I've wandered the Capitol under construction with tour groups of legislators when it was dark, dusty and lifeless. Then slowly as we were allowed in, I wandered as the echoing building began to grow inhabitants, offices here and there had staffers, legislative colleagues would appear now and then in an empty chamber wide eyed and wandering too.
While I generally don't seek them out, I've been to monuments, to cathedrals, castles, the Taj Mahal; huge human crafted places, large, beautiful or strange enough to inspire awe. I will say that our State Capitol rises to that plane. Its beauty, size, it splendor has reached a level it may not have reached before. Perhaps I say this because the absence has made our hearts grow more fond of its roomy beauty; or perhaps the walls take the eye by surprise because no one builds things from marble anymore; perhaps because the 70s paneling is gone and the wear and tear and funk I loved perfectly well before have vanished. Now it all shines, not just literally, because it does that too, but one can't help but feel how much thought and labor has poured into the place; how many hours of so many skilled hands have worked there in the dark and through these summers and winters.
It has been gone. The building fenced and ugly like a wreck in the middle of our city for I think two and a half years. Over $100 million dollars poured into it, into wages and materials and minds for their problem solving and invention. I did not vote for the wings or, because the bill contained both, I did not vote to fix up the Capitol. But it is done and in my mind it is enough beyond belief that I ask you to go take a look.
The money that could have put school children in class rooms instead of trailers is is gone and it will be well spent if this building returns to those who really own it. The people of Idaho. If you all step inside and look up, if you climb the stairs, explore the corridors, step to microphones in the new hearing rooms, then it will be money well spent. If generations of Idahoans step in the building and find awe and pride, maybe then those who study now without current text books or run science experiments without proper equipment, maybe they, when grown, will forgive us. Maybe they will not think ill of us because we built something for them too– not just a stone shrine to house our own lawmaker's vanity.
Last night and today the building has warmed with life and people. I hope for much more of that. I hope that Idaho might feel it has its building back, that it is yours, not ours, that it is a place we as law makers can aspire to be worthy of in our life times and for the three months we stay here borrowing the air, the beauty and the space to write your budgets and laws.